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Between Master and Disciples

Sutta Nipāta: Dhaniya the Cattleman, Part 3 of 9, Dec 30, 2019

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I am sure many people who eat meat and drink milk or things, they do not know this. Otherwise, they would not want to. That’s why it’s our duty to spread the news. Tell them to watch “Cowspiracy,” “Earthlings,” “Dominion,” these kinds of films, to awaken their compassion and tell the truth. So, they know the truth. That way they will stop it.

Now, this is a comparison between the Buddha and the cattleman, the rancher. It’s not explained here how this comparison came about. Maybe it’s just random, some monks just thinking that, “Why do you have to be a monk?” or “What’s the difference between the Buddha and any ordinary person?” And they picked a cattleman, a man who has a herd of cows or oxen, to take care of them, to use them to till the land, and to use them to make a living for himself, of course. So, here are the verses to compare the two of them: The World Enlightened One, World Honored One and a cattleman.

First the cattleman... As if they were speaking with each other, like a conversation. Like the cattleman says something, then Buddha says something else, like opposing it. How many of you know this Nipata: Cattleman and Buddha? How many of you monks and nuns know? Did you have time to read this? No? Yes or no? No. No time. Oh, it’s a lot. OK. No? No? No? OK. I also, no. First time I read this. I read many other sutras, those easy ones: Lotus Sutra, Amitabha Buddha, Medicine Buddha Sutra, Diamond Sutra, blah, blah, blah, blah, but not this. In Âu Lạc (Vietnam), we don’t always have the chance to get hold of too many sutras. Maybe they have some in this temple, and some in that temple. And in the Western world it’s even less. But some of the saintly people, like this Bhikkhu Ṭhanissaro, they took their time, with the best interest of other beings at heart, to translate. And sometimes explaining a little meaning here and there. So, we definitely are very grateful to the great Bhikkhu.

Actually, recently I asked them to collect more of the Tripitaka for me. So, they sent them from I don’t know where, different countries, in a box. And I also don’t always have time, thanks to you, to read. I just read in between my… It’s bad… When you read the sutras, you have to read in front of the Buddha or quietly sit down. But I had to read it, sometimes between my (vegan) sandwich. When else would I have time? Between my spoons of soup, (vegan) soup, I keep reading it, just to select some for you.

So now, the first in conversation is Dhaniya, the cattleman. He could pick up any name, doesn’t matter. Maybe Johnny Smith from Texas, or Scotland, or wherever. But it happened to be maybe in India, so the name is Dhaniya. “The cattleman” is his position. He has a lot of cattle. He raises cows to have milk, to graze the field for him and till the land. Before, that’s all we had. We had oxen, we had cows to till the land. To plow the land in order to sow the seeds and make food and vegetables and grains. Now, Dhaniya said about his proud position. Of course, he’s proud. He’s independent, he has everything he needs, a lot of cattle. And cattle, they give birth to more cattle. Therefore, they become more and more prosperous due to that.

People sometimes raise animals just to multiply them, like sheep or whatever. Yeah, they do that. But in those days, no matter how many you raised, it could not be more than a hundred or two hundred. And they’d go out in the fields to graze. Not like in our modern civilized time, they’re cooped up in a small little pen and cannot even move around. And force them to give milk or have babies until they could stand no more, and even have broken bones and stomachs falling out. Oh God! I am sure many people who eat meat and drink milk or things, they do not know this. Otherwise, they would not want to. That’s why it’s our duty to spread the news. Tell them to watch “Cowspiracy,” “Earthlings,” “Dominion,” these kinds of films, to awaken their compassion and tell the truth. So, they know the truth. That way they will stop it.

That’s how people are more and more vegan nowadays, because they are exposed more and more to the truth. They’re truly poor people. They know nothing. This is the work of the maya: To make people know nothing, and then they commit sin and then torture them. Like yesterday, your sister said she went to hell and saw some of the hell punishments. Like people who eat meat or anything to do with meat, they will be ground, just like the way the beef is ground on our land, with a big machine, coming from nowhere. You remember yesterday? These are true things. Actually, it’s not just her who knows about hell. Aren’t you glad you are vegan now? (Yes.) Thank your Master, no? No, thanks to all the Masters who told you this, and you didn’t listen until I came along. I say the same thing. I didn’t say anything new, but you changed. You didn’t listen to the Buddha. Buddha also taught to be vegan, make peace. No? Jesus taught the same. All Masters taught the same. Why did you have to wait for me to come, spoon-feed you? And say, “Oh, correct, Master! We’re vegan. Go be vegan now.” I’m sorry. The calendar comes out by itself, otherwise, I could read very fast again. All finished. And then I could go.

It’s just my destiny, I have to come and talk to you. Before, I talked very little, very shy, didn’t say anything. One time, when I was a very little girl in the primary school… Because I was a good student, excellent student, top of the class. So there was one American or English – I can’t remember, he spoke English anyway – came to visit our school. Sometimes the director from the education department also came to visit us. They visit different schools, they do that. And then that day, one of the directors of the education department came to visit us and brought along one English speaking Westerner. And he came and asked me, “How are You?” I understood nothing, of course.

But then the director translated for me. I didn’t even answer anything. I was too shell-shocked. “Who is this guy?” I never saw this kind of man before. All I saw in my district were just cows and cowherds, farmers, my parents, my sister. I’d never seen a Westerner before. So, I was too shocked. Just standing there, saying nothing. Didn’t answer at all. And he kept repeating again and I didn’t answer at all. I was that shy. So shy, so shy. But I was always taken out of my shell to be introduced, and even lent to another school to sing for that school! As if nobody else in the world knew how to sing! Terrible. I didn’t sing all that well. I don’t know why they kept borrowing me. And I sang all right. But if you asked me anything, I didn’t know how to answer. So shy. And also, after being married and all that, I never spoke much. I told you already, I sat there listening to my ex’s conversation with everybody else, and I wished I could speak some part like that. Not the whole thing, maybe, but a little part. I just could not say anything. I didn’t know what to say!

And sometimes, when I’m wrongly accused, I also don’t know how to clear my name. I just take it. Even when I was in an ashram in India already, and got some tiny enlightenment already. There was one time we were sitting, eating breakfast. Rarely, that I could have some. Because sometimes they ate a lot, they ate all of it. When I came, it was done! Only something they didn’t like, leftover, maybe a little bit of salad or some uncooked bread or something, half-baked chapati or what. So, we were eating. Somehow, that day I was lucky, the cook was there and there were two Westerners with me. One was working together with me to help the Master in that ashram and another one was a visiting disciple, of course. And we were sitting there eating some chapati. Oh, it was delicious! Always delicious! I was always hungry. When you have no responsibility, you are only a disciple, everything tastes delicious. And now, even if they cook chapati for me, it doesn’t taste the same anymore. Maybe the flour, or maybe who cooks it, or maybe I’m too full of other things in my head and it goes to my stomach, also. So, it doesn’t feel that tasty anymore. So, we were sitting together and eating chapati, and it happened to be these potato-filled chapati. Very tasty. Oh, lovely! At that time. Now you cook for me, don’t worry, I don’t taste much.

And then, I ate only one, and the other colleague, spiritual colleague, ate one. And there were two left, and the visitor, he helped himself. He finished all, to clean the plate for us. And then, I don’t know if my colleague saw it or not, if he wanted to glean a confession out of the visitor or not. He blamed me. He said, “Huh! You’re so small, but you eat a lot, huh? The last one, you ate, huh?” And I didn’t know how to defend myself. I could’ve said, “No, I didn’t! I didn’t!” But I didn’t say anything. And in my mind, I was thinking, “I don’t want to embarrass the visitor.” So I kept quiet. Zip. That’s another time in India.

And in New York, I was staying in a temple. I don’t know if I told you all this before. Maybe I did. Pretend you didn’t hear. I forgot. Forgive the old woman’s memory. So, one time, there was another female who lived in that temple at that time. She was a former nun from another temple, and then she disrobed herself and she came and stayed in this temple with me, with the master, of course. And then, she sometimes cooked for us and etc. And one time, she did something wrong, very wrong, and the master thought it was me, because I was supposed to do that work. I don’t remember what, but he blamed me for that. And he kind of remonstrated me. And I said nothing. I knew it was her, and she sat next to me, but I said nothing.

I always worried that the other (person) would get too embarrassed. Because I knew I didn’t do it, so I felt good enough already. Why would I have to make the other (person) feel bad? I wouldn’t have felt any better. I already knew I didn’t do it, so in my heart I was clear and happy. So, it didn’t matter. Why would I have to make another person feel bad, because that wouldn’t make me feel better than I already do. That’s the reason; in my conscious mind I think like that. It wasn’t the first time. There are many other times like that, and I’m happy to take the blame. I don’t really care.

Because in your heart, you know you didn’t do it. It’s not like a life-and-death matter or something. But if it was for somebody else, I’d be too outspoken. Like in the temple, they had a flat board like that and they smeared some sticky kind of chemical, so all the cockroaches would be just hanging there, by the backs or the legs and could not move. Oh, I felt so bad, so bad! So, I scolded the whole temple, including the abbot, the so-called master. And they could not say anything. First, they said, “It’s just a little bit. It’s not killing.” I said, “Yeah? Talking about a little bit, how about sex? Just a little bit of sex is OK for you monks?” And then, of course, they could not say anything. It was so quick! I was so quick and so sharp. Maybe I ate too much chili that day. Too sharp! So later, the master abbot said, “She’s right. She’s right. We won’t do that again.”

I said, “Imagine it’s you, glue yourself to something and you cannot do anything.” Oh! I was so mad, so mad, because I felt so pained looking at that. Just imagine it’s you, then you’ll know what it is! Anything, just imagine it’s you, then you know what to do. No need for anybody to teach you anything. Even the little insect, a little cockroach, they feel! They’re stuck there, helpless.

Oh! When it’s for somebody else or some other being, I’m outright, outspoken and fearless. But when it’s for myself, I just sit there. I sometimes wonder why, also. Why I was so courageous in some cases and so meek on many other occasions. I wonder myself. My God, my calendar.

Now, we really have to go back to India. So, the cattleman, he was very proud of what he had and his possessions, and his ability to be independent, to take care of himself and his family. Of course, man’s pride is there.

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